Posted by Pamela Johnson | 23 November 2016 | 2,376 times
For the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the praise, it seems, may never end. The latest to join the chorus of commendation is the World Bank, which commended the resolute implementation of TSA by the Federal Government of Nigeria through Remita, the developers of the revolutionary payment gateway duly approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Trade and Investment, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, disclosed the World Bank’s reaction while speaking at the recent Second Presidential Economic Communications Workshop in Abuja. The praise, Dr. Oduwole said, was also extended to the Online Name Reservation Portal of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for improving the ease of registering companies in Nigeria. “The World Bank has commended the ease of starting a business in Nigeria. This is made possible through Remita and the CAC,” the Presidential Aide said.
This is just one of the many informed endorsements of the TSA policy, which has dominated public discourse on these shores since it was adopted. But, as could be expected, not everyone is a fan of the scheme. In some quarters, every problem under the sun is attributable to the policy. Some individuals blame the TSA for their job losses, banks for their low deposits, while government functionaries and universities claim that it whittles down their autonomy and access to funds meant for the execution of projects.
I may not agree with the government’s policies most of the time, but I cannot in good conscience fault the adoption of this policy. In fact, I feel it is the only solution to the rot that financial management in our public sector has become. If nothing else convinces me, the federal government’s recovery of trillions of its cash assets since the policy was adopted does. Lest we forget, these idle funds were yielding interest for banks and faceless individuals all this time, while the government was starved of funds for projects of national importance. I can’t stand against a policy that reverses that ugly trend, however procedural and painstaking it may be.
But that is not what is at issue here. Contrary to what many think, the TSA is not some fly-by-night policy that we can all write off as peculiar to Nigeria. The policy has also been adopted by several developing nations in Africa that wish to instill a culture of probity and accountability in their financial systems. Take Rwanda, for instance. In 2005, it adopted a zero-balance drawing system which requires that its ministries and budget agencies’ accounts are held in the National Bank of Rwanda. The policy stipulates that all ministries and budget agencies begin a new fiscal year with zero cash balance on their accounts. Thus, cash transfers are made from the treasury to the ministries’ accounts monthly, and the financial transactions they (ministries) make are restricted to their allocations for the month. To make the policy more foolproof, daily checks are conducted to ensure that whatever funds left at the close of business are transferred to the Treasury for re-issue the following day to drive transparency.
Uganda adopted its TSA policy in 2013 in accordance with section 4 (1) of its Public Finance and Accountability Act (2003) which states that “the Minister responsible for Finance is responsible for maintaining transparent systems which, among others, ensures the efficient and cost effective cash management of the Consolidated Fund, any other fund established under the Act and other public moneys.” The policy in Uganda started out aggregating all government cash balances into a set of linked bank accounts, with the long-term plan being a single bank account where all revenues would flow from and payments made. Before the adoption of the policy, the country’s MDAs operated over 2,000 accounts which were dormant and became a breeding ground for corruption and misappropriation of public funds.
Last year, Kenya announced its proposed adoption of a TSA policy in reaction to the loss of billions of dollars in its public system. Its earlier Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) had proved ineffective in waging and winning this war, much like previous financial management systems had failed to curb corruption in the Nigerian public sector. Thanks to its TSA policy, Kenya proposed National Treasury and County Treasury Single Accounts, which would both be housed at the Central Bank of Kenya and align with the government’s renewed technological focus.
So rather than flay the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s adoption of TSA based on hearsay, I think we should all do some research and have more informed opinions about the policy. So far, the TSA has returned N4.3 trillion into government coffers. As recently disclosed by the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, the policy has reduced inflation and reversed the loss of a whopping N70 billion to failed banks in 2011 when it was not in force.
Indeed, government needs to sensitise the public on why the TSA is the only choice for any forward-looking African country in the 21st century. More importantly, it is not enough for government to deposit these funds into the TSA and reel out how much we are recovering every quarter. We also need to see how these funds are put to work and make a difference in life as we have always known it as Nigerians.
•Pamela Johnson writes from Lagos. Photo shows Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun.
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